Skolimowski's third film and one of his best, an extraordinary fusion of fantasy and documentary that adds up to a bleakly disenchanted look at the Polish here-and-now. It begins with images of strange, indefinable menace that resolve themselves into one of those ritualistic Polish games (like the one in Knife in the Water) being played by medical students. The winner, grabbing the piggy-bank containing the spoils (no communal ownership for him) and brandishing a sabre (sole legacy of his father), sets out into streets illuminated by the ubiquitous candles of Easter, seeking the good life in a society that proves to be haunted by the oppressive weight of past glories, peopled by old age, death, disillusionment and hordes of commuters scurrying past the huge, blank new buildings. He ends clinging precariously to the front of a rattletrap tram ('There are romantic impulses left in our cynical generation') driven by the quizzical blonde he meets, loses and finally finds again as his only spark of hope. With its startling imagery and bizarre landscapes, Barrier is that rare bird, a genuinely surrealist film.
Cast and crew